Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The Baron Next Door by Erin Knightley

The Baron Next Door: A Prelude to a Kiss Novel by Erin Knightley
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A kiss, a simple kiss becomes the ultimate expression of everything her hero and heroine feel -- and Erin Knightley does it so eloquently. She is one of the very few authors who can turn a simple kiss into the most electrifying, most explosive, most exciting, and most emotional moment in a romance novel. The kiss becomes more meaningful considering it is being shared by a grouchy baron and a gifted pianist.

On the outside, he looks fine, but, Hugh Danby suffers from debilitating headaches from the injuries he sustained as a soldier. There are triggers for these attacks and, unfortunately, music is one of those triggers. Hugh has rented a house in Bath at his sister-in-law's suggestion, hoping the quiet and the waters could help his condition. He discovers that the waters are helping, but Hugh also discovers (too late) that there is no quiet to be had in Bath, having arrived at the height of Bath's first music festival. And then discovering further that his neighbor is one of the musicians aspiring to be part of the event.

Can you hate the music but not the musician? Hugh has a hard time behaving well around Charity, seeing her as the cause of his suffering, but he also can't help but enjoy Charity's cleverness and spirit. Charity was the "jilted" party in A Taste for Scandal and she actually came to Bath to escape the gossip about her. Neither our hero nor our heroine is looking for a romantic attachment at the moment: he's there to be alone and her only goal in Bath was to participate in the music festival, but, the stars and the universe all conspire, and our hero and heroine both have to deal with unexpected feelings for each other.

The music festival is a big part of the story and it's amazing how accurately Knighhtley depicts small-town politics: Charity and her group aren't allowed to play because May plays a guzheng, a Chinese instrument. The author highlights how different-ness isn't accepted and how conformity is valued, but Knightley also uses this as an opportunity to form a bond between the three ladies -- I hope to read more of May and Sophie.

"Oh, my word, Charity said, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. "You two shall be the death of me, I can already tell." After the odd dinner last night, it felt wonderful to laugh with people she actually liked.

May patted her arms. "No, darling -- we shall be the life of you. Anyone who blushes as easily as you has not had nearly enough adventure in her life."
- Chapter 5

The Baron Next Door also chronicles Hugh's journey of accepting his new self. It's never explicitly stated but Hugh seems to think himself as less of a man (and unworthy of living and loving) because of his injury. He has hidden from the world, and had not really taken his place in society as Baron Cadgwith.

He gave himself a mental shake. Christ, he didn't used to be like this. It was hard to remember when he had readily laughed and flirted with young women, but it had happened. Back when he was young and naive, and was whole in body and spirit. With the dull pounding in his head blossoming to sharp jabs, he lifted his goblet to his lips and drained the rest of his wine.
- Chapter 4

Part of my reflection after reading this novel was the idea of "the right partner" -- Charity had a wonderful match with Richard (A Taste for Scandal), but it wasn't right for either one and Richard ended up marrying someone else. Dering (the Earl of Derington) loves music and is an old friend of Charity and her family -- he would also have made a great match for Charity. Of the men in Charity's life, Hugh posed the greatest challenge: imagine a life with a man who cannot ever be part of the one thing that defines your life.

But love is never about the easiest or the most straightforward route -- and Hugh and Charity will come to realise this in their story.

The Baron Next Door was a truly pleasurable novel to read. I loved the banter between the hero and heroine: so much annoyance and so much attraction. What I like about how Knightley develops her characters' love story is how she really mixes up elements and personalities, and waits for the chemical reaction that results from it. When the moment is right, when the combination has reached the right temperature ... fireworks.

"God, Charity," he rasped, hugging her to him before pulling away. His eyes roamed over her face before meeting her gaze. He shook his head. "What you do to me."

Good. She liked knowing he was every bit as affected by her as she was by him. "If it's anything like what you do to me, I think we may be in trouble," she said ...
- Chapter 24

This is the first book in Erin Knightley's Prelude to a Kiss series (and is connected to A Taste for Scandal). To find out more about Erin Knightley and her books, click below:


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